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Crying can happen at the most inconvenient times, and sometimes tears take us by surprise. We’ve all been there, trying to stop those tears sliding down our cheeks and giving away our emotions – but why? Why do we cry when we are sad, cry when tired, and what is crying with happiness? Here are the top ten answers to the age-old question, “why do humans cry?”:
- Physical pain.
- Hurt feelings.
- Sadness, including loss.
So, from shedding angry tears to crying with happiness, read on to understand a little more about what does crying do and what does crying mean.
Make crying easier to cope with by using some strong, yet soft tissues when you’re feeling fragile. Cushelle tissues are so strong that they can even survive the wash if you accidentally leave one in your pocket, but they’re still super soft and caring on skin.
What is crying?
What does crying do? Crying is a biological mechanism for your body to get a release from an overwhelming emotion, whether this is hysterical laughter or intense sadness. As well as being a way to self-soothe¹, it is also a signal to others that we might be in danger or distress which hopefully then encourages them to offer help or affection when we need it the most.
Why do we cry?
From emotional tears when we grieve at funerals to screaming babies crying out for their breakfast, crying is an emotional response most often associated with sadness. However, when answering what does crying mean, crying is not exclusively reserved for grief and sorrow, so let’s get into the ten reasons to help you understand the answer to the question, “why do people cry?”
1. Crying with happiness
Let’s start on a positive note! Every once in a while, you’ll experience a happy emotion that prompts tears of joy. Crying with happiness is often linked to love and personal connection. For example, you wouldn’t be too surprised to see many a tear shed at a wedding or the birth of a child. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t stop there though. Being proud of a family member or feeling the joy and happiness of the perfect gift could also lead to those happy tears.
This is slightly different from purely crying with happiness; often we will cry when we reach a point of contentment after a long stretch of stress or unhappiness. From anxiety about an upcoming test result, to the stress of a burst water pipe at home, reaching the end of any period of tension or strain is emotional. The relief that surfaces as soon as the problem goes away can often result in tears.
Before relief, comes stress – and sometimes it’s not only when the tension lifts that we cry, but while we are under duress too. We’ve all had those horrible feelings of worry or tension that build up internally, whether from pressures at work, personal relationships, or major life changes.
The good news is that crying from stress gives us a release of this build up and can help us to think more clearly afterwards.² The effects of your crying may not be felt immediately but give it a little time and it should help you feel a release and help to lift your mood.
Why do people cry when tired at unexpected things? After a long day, or a sleepless night, we’re more vulnerable to strong emotions, as our brains need to focus on keeping us awake, and this can trigger tears. Situations that wouldn’t otherwise bother us, do, and put simply, we lose the ability to maintain emotional control.³ So, if you’re wondering why do I cry easily when I get home from work at 9pm and a picture of puppy in socks has you sobbing, you’re not going nuts – you just need a rest!
Angry crying can happen at the most annoying moments: during arguments when you want to appear strong or when you’re trying to stay calm under pressure. Why do people cry when they’re angry? Anger is linked to fear, but also to the feeling of being hurt. It’s completely natural – and actually quite mature – to deal with anger through tears instead of through lashing out.⁴
6. Physical pain
Crying when in physical pain is an evolutionary feature. In the same way that babies cry to indicate that something is wrong, crying when physically hurt signals to everyone around us that we need help as well as giving us a way to self-soothe and cope with the physical pain that we are feeling.¹
7. Hurt feelings
Though many of us find involuntary tears during an argument a little embarrassing, we shouldn’t! Similar to when we cry due to physical pain, emotional and mental pain can cause us to cry too. If a loved one has said or done something to make us feel betrayed, crying is an instant way of showing them that they need to take our distress seriously. Why do we cry when we get hurt, if not to get a little help and sympathy?
Disappointment often comes from the same source of feelings of anger: a powerful emotion when our expectations are not met. Whether it is well placed or not, disappointment can be a bitterly uncomfortable emotion, so it’s no wonder that we often express it through tears.
9. Sadness and loss
Crying is one of the best ways we can cope with feelings of sadness or loss. Although the causes of these emotions might not go away, expressing them can make you feel better in time. Witnessing tears can also bring out empathy in others.⁵ This means that people who see that you’re crying will give you some much needed comfort and support. Why do we cry when we get hurt, if not to get a little help and sympathy after all.
Empathetic crying – sharing the feelings of another person – is bittersweet. Though the situation may be bad, feeling sad on the behalf of someone else is a wonderful part of human nature. It’s also the kind of empathy that makes us tear up when watching certain films.
There we go, answers to why do humans cry. Crying is normal, healthy, and even biologically sensible. The reality is we don’t have much control over it, and we’re never going to be able to avoid this completely natural reflex completely. So, don’t question why do I cry easily anymore or whether you’re crying with happiness or frustration, grab a packet of tissues and never be embarrassed to let it all out.